Right off the top we have to congratulate coach John Herdman and his team for making the Round of 16 in the Women’s World Cup. That is the good news. If we are to be picky to a team that finished first in its group with zero losses and 5 points then the fact that they only scored one goal in open play over 3 games is a little worrisome.
Coming into the tournament this was the form that Canada’s Women’s National Soccer team was on. Playing strong, but not able to produce much in the way of goals. Now, in soccer you don’t expect 4 goals a game, so expectations are lowered that way. But for a team that comes into the tournament ranked 8th in world and boast Christine Sinclair up front it should be able to score goals. Not so, so far with this squad. It is a little worrisome that they could only score the one goal against the weaker sides that they faced in group play. They are going to have to generate (and finish) more offense starting with their next game.
Maybe feeling this pressure Herdman made some line-up changes. He took out veterans like Jonelle Foligno, Lauren Sesselmann, Melissa Tancredi, and Desiree Scott to put in some youth in Jessie Fleming and Adriana Leon along with veterans Kaylyn Kyle and Carmelina Moscato. Fleming was especially a surprise as she is only 17-years-old. The crafty midfielder is part of Canada’s future and on this evening their present.
Probably buoyed by the 45,420 who were applauding their every move and the fresh blood in the starting 11, Canada got off to strong start. Midfielders Sophie Schmidt and Ashley Lawrence were causing the Dutch defense some problems and their pressure was rewarded with a goal in the 10th minute of play. Just inside the box on the right hand side, Schmidt directed a shot towards the Dutch net. It was blocked, but barely, by a defender and the ball came fortuitously to Ashley Lawrence. She made no mistake with her shot as it cleanly beat Dutch keeper, Loes Geurts. 1-0 Canada.
Lawrence’s strong play continued after the goal with roughly a minute late she got loose just outside the Dutch box to whiz a low shot just wide of the left post. It was symbolic of the Canadian team’s play so far in the tournament. They create chances, but are not able to finish. We saw several of these types of chances being wasted with Canada not able to score that important second goal that probably would have deflated their opponent in orange.
The Netherlands seemed content to allow Canada the bulk of possession while trying to spring several forward on the counterattack. Throughout the game the women in orange seemed most dangerous on the counterattack. This was especially true in the last 15 minutes of the 2nd half. For about 5 to 10 minutes before they scored the equalizer in the 87th minute they continuously pressed the Canadians. Once on a breakaway they forced Canadian keeper Erin McLeod into a great save on the dangerous Manon Melis making herself big coming out to block the shot with her knee.
The Dutch goal started with Moscato muffing a clearing attempt and Melis getting the ball to substitute Kirsten Van der Ven. She was unmarked at the edge of the box and launched a wicked shot just under the bar to beat McLeod. This was the first shot to beat McLeod in the tournament. 1-1.
By finishing atop Group A Canada will likely play either Nigeria or Cameroon next round. That will be played on Sunday in Vancouver. Now begins the single-game knock out portion of the tournament.
-On-Field Officials: Referee – Ri Hyan Ok (People’s Republic of Korea)
Linespeople – Hong Kum Nyo (People’s Republic of Korea) and Kim Kyoung Min (Korea)
Goals: 1st Half:
10th minute: Canada – Ashley Lawrence
87th minute: Netherlands – Kirsten Van de Ven
-Shots on Goal: Canada – 5
Netherlands – 5
-Corners: Canada – 3
Netherlands – 4
-Player of the Match: Manon Melis – Netherlands
-Final Score: Canada – 1
Netherlands – 1